Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama – Second Printing
Edited By Marc Maufort
The Canon of American Drama and Cultural Difference 108
The Canon of American Drama and Cultural Difference This page intentionally left blank Eugene O'Neill's First Transcultural Epic: "Universal History" in The Fountain Ronald R. Miller I During his period of experimentation during the 1920s, Eugene O'Neill engaged a theme which would concern him through much of his career: the collision of cultures brought about by migrations in world history. His most expansive treatments of the theme, in works such as Marco Millions, Lazarus Laughed, and Mourning Becomes Electra, reveal his interest in the liminal moments in which one culture confronts another. O'Neill's first attempt at an epic treatment of this theme was in The Fountain, written in 1921. The play begins with an early event in the history of the Americas, Columbus' second voyage to the West Indies, and takes as its principal focus the original myth of the European ethos in America, the search of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon for a "fountain of youth." It is evident that O'Neill interpreted these early events in the history of the new Americans in transcultural terms. He saw the Spanish impulse towards the "New World" as emerging from an intercultural conflict taking place contemporaneously in Europe, between Granada and the Moors. The playwright's treatments of these conflicts demonstrate that he saw each as part of a universal pattern of cultural confrontation extending through history. Most telling in this respect is 0 'Neill's reliance on a popular historical work from the period, H. G. Wells's The Outline of History....
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